In case you missed it, at the very end of 2009 Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton suffered some turnover amongst his executive staff. Most notably, City Administrator J.J. Murphy ended his tenure with the city to give the private sector a try.
We’ve got a newly promoted city administrator, as well as a newly hired executive assistant to the mayor. And since there’s been no official press release on any of that, I will not name names.
Since I figured he’d be available for comment, and since he’s never been reluctant to answer any of the many questions I’ve tossed his way over the years, I asked him to do an interview in which we would look forward at Wilkes-Barre’s immediate future, and dispense with the usual ‘year in review’ post so many bloggers feel the need to post upon the arrival of Amateur Night.
I forwarded to him a dozen questions about various city projects that are about to be completed, about to get underway, with a couple of inquiries about floundering properties thrown in for good measure. And since he so recently handed in his keys to City Hall, I figured we could do an informal exit interview.
He agreed to all of it, but the “Beer Summit” format I suggested would have to wait until after his current one-month deployment to Florida with the U.S. Air Force. So, the plan was, he’d send the textual stuff from Florida, I’d post all of that, and upon his return in very early February, we’d do the beer thing which would then turn into a follow-up post. Nifty.
But, I awoke this morning to find the following text message waiting on me:
I have been asked to deploy to Haiti to coordinate the search and rescue operations. I should be gone for approximately 45 days.
Thanks for your support.
As was always the case with J.J., if and when you gain his ear, you had better pepper him with questions because he doesn’t sit still for very long or very often. Actually, he doesn’t stay in the United States very long, but that’s totally dependent on what the U.S. military has on it’s enormous plate at any given time. In this case, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake and off he goes.
Here’s a short piece I snagged from the King’s College Web site that will fill in some of the blanks:
KING'S COLLEGE HONORS J. J. MURPHY FOR PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT
June 1, 2005- King’s College is honoring Wilkes-Barre City Administrator J. J. Murphy with the Leo Award during Reunion Weekend at the College’s Sheehy-Farmer Campus Center. The Leo Award is presented to an alumnus/alumna within fifteen years of graduation who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in his/her professional or community activities. The award is named for the King’s College mascot; it suggests the energy, pride and sense of purpose which the recipient personifies.
J.J. Murphy of Wilkes-Barre is a 1993 graduate of King’s College. He has distinguished himself in both military and civil service, while also spending many hours volunteering in the communities in which he has lived. As a military officer, Murphy volunteered over 3,000 hours and received the 2001 Volunteer of the Year award. He is the recipient of the Air Force Achievement Medal in 1998 as well as the Air Force Commendation Medal in 2000, 2003 and 2004. Murphy was also the primary public affairs representative for the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Virginia’s during the September 11 attacks.
In February 2003,J.J. Murphy was mobilized for 13 months as a reservist in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In civilian life, he is currently the youngest city administrator in the history of Wilkes-Barre. As founder and president of GOALS Foundation, J.J. is dedicated to helping children afford youth sports programs. He has coached, tutored, refereed, trained hockey officials and coordinated visits to multiple Veterans Administration hospitals.
In addition, he was also deployed to Djibouti, Africa in very early 2008. That was a fairly lengthy AFRICOM-related forward-deployment, the duration of which escapes me now.
Here’s an e-mail exchange only hours old:
No biggie. After seeing that utter devastation, I got to thinking...Gee, I guessthere's really something to be said for building codes and zoningordinances after all.
Freakin' bummer going on there.
You nailed that one. The coordination is immense. Looking forward tothat drink after Feb 1st.
So, the exit interview and the look forward at Wilkes-Barre’s immediate future will obviously have to wait. And I guess the Beer Summit will have to be indefinitely postponed. Meanwhile, Major Murphy has himself another mission, and the Haitian people need all the help they can get.
Anyway, this was a little note about the post that almost was. And a shout out to one of Wilkes-Barre’s best and brightest…J.J. Murphy.
Haiti may be reduced to rubble as I type this, but help is on the way from Wilkes-Barre. He’ll be there, followed by more.*
Editor’s Note: I think he’s a Major. I always call him General Murphy so as to prove how completely juvenile I am. So I’m a bit up in the air about his actual military rank.
*Adaptation of the lyrics of the Air Force fight song.